CHARLOTTE — The surge in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. isn’t stopping people from traveling, but your next flight on American Airlines could be delayed because flight attendants and pilots say they’re not getting the rest they need to keep you safe.
Accommodation issues for flight crews have led to a grievance filed against American Airlines.
If you’ve been in an airport recently then you know that, quite often, delays are unavoidable. It’s gotten worse since the industry bounced back from the pandemic.
Part of the problem though is airlines trying to find time for flight crews to rest.
On good days, the airlines operate like well-oiled machines, but often passengers are disappointed.
“I have had to wait six hours for the next flight because of a delay, so American cost me, and I used to fly with them,” said Rena Carter.
Delays have been an issue at American Airlines, and one of the reasons is because sometimes there is not enough room in the inn.
“It’s just something we can’t have happen,” said Paul Hartshorn, spokesman for the Flight Attendants’ Union. “We’ve had storms before, we’ve had short staffing before in the past and we’ve never seen issues like were seeing today for our flight attendants. It is unacceptable that our crew members are sitting for five hours waiting for a hotel room. It’s unacceptable that we have crews that are forced to sleep in the airport because a hotel room cannot be obtained.”
The FAA obviously does not want a tired crew operating an aircraft. The agency mandates that flight crews have a certain amount of rest and if that conflicts with the airline’s schedule, flights get delayed or canceled.
“This problem has become so large that we finally, along with the pilots union, filed a presidential grievance against American Airlines to have them fix the problem immediately,” Hartshorn said.
Channel 9 contacted American Airlines about the issue and the airline said, “Taking care of our crew members while they are away from home is a priority for American. We are looking into the concerns raised by APA and APFA.”
Dr. Mary Wells is an expert in sleep science, and she’s concerned that tired crews could pose a risk.
“With poor sleep health comes all of the negative consequences that come with it, such as poor performance, cognitive problems, memory problems, and those are certainly issues that we don’t want to see, especially in a high-risk job,” she said.
The problem may get worse before it gets better. American Airlines has called back 3,200 flight attendants who took a voluntary leave. It’s a great sign for the industry but it may mean more growing pains.
As for what caused this issue in the first place, the union thinks air traffic just bounced back a lot quicker than originally anticipated. They hope this formal grievance will motivate the airline to make resolving it a priority.
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